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Luke Physical Therapy Flight puts Airmen back in the fight

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dominic Tyler
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.-- The 56th Medical Group physical therapy flight at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, is a shop of a few Airmen that have a vital mission providing medical support to injured active-duty Airmen.

On September 22, 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III detailed the critical relationship between taking care of service members and the force’s readiness to defend the nation in his memo titled "Taking Care of Our Service Members and Families." The Luke physical therapy team plays an active role in the medical readiness of 56th Fighter Wing Airmen.

“An injury does not need to be serious to see physical therapy,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Terry Rawlins, 56th Medical Group human performance flight non-commissioned officer in charge. “We are here to help with anything from general low back pain to post-operative care following a surgery. Come get the help you need before it’s serious.”

While the physical therapy flight encourages walk-ins to all active-duty members, the physical therapy Airmen also make visits around base. They’ve recently implemented a new embedment program, where the flight will send specialists out to check in with various units.

“We want to make sure our Airmen are being taken care of,” said Capt. Xavier Cardinal, 56th Medical Group staff physical therapist. “We’ve recently been focusing on more physically demanding career fields such as explosive ordinance disposal, security forces, civil engineering, and maintenance where Airmen might be more susceptible to injury.”

Cardinal mentions the most common injury they see patients for is back problems. With this in mind, the physical therapy flight took it upon themselves to counter the issue.

“The medical group has noticed that the number one reason Airmen call out of work, even above the common cold, is back pain,” said Cardinal. “We hold weekly rehabilitative classes in support of active-duty members that have been evaluated by the clinic for persistent back pain. We aim to decrease pain and disability using exercise to assure they make a full recovery and get back into the fight.”

While the physical therapy flight works with injured Airmen, they are also experts in injury prevention; able to give physical training advice and show proper workout techniques. By properly treating injuries and working to prevent injuries, the physical therapy flight has the ability to impact not only the unit’s readiness, but also the Airman’s quality of life.

“Proper rest is one thing you might not think about when it comes to preventing injuries,” said Cardinal. “Airmen are more prone to injury when sleep deprived. Getting good sleep, staying active, and using proper lifting technique is paramount to an Airman’s overall health.”

The Air Force’s ability to defend the nation and maintain readiness are inextricably linked to the success and readiness of Airmen. The Luke physical therapy flight provides support to injured Airmen and gives them the tools they need to stay combat ready. For more information, service members can contact the physical therapy team at 623-856-9729.